Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Progressive Mathematics Teaching in South Africa: A Focus on Curriculum Reform from Outcomes-Based Education (Obe) to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps)

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Progressive Mathematics Teaching in South Africa: A Focus on Curriculum Reform from Outcomes-Based Education (Obe) to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps)

Article excerpt


As in many other developing countries, curriculum reform in South Africa has posed a number of challenges and tensions. According to Cross, Mungadi, and Rouhani (2012), these tensions could include:

the vision vis-a-vis the country's realities; symbolism vis-a-vis mass expectations; the curriculum framework visa-vis applicability, conditions of implementation and actual practice in schools; expected outcomes vis-a-vis the capacity of teachers to translate them into reality; and budget concerns vis-a-vis commitment to values such as equity, redress and massification, and so on. (p. 171)

An important development in the postapartheid era was a departure from apartheid education through an outcomes-based curriculum reform. Curriculum 2005 was launched in 1997, and it was the government's flagship education plan, which it promised to implement from grades 1 to grade 12 by the year 2005. This curriculum was developed to overhaul completely the apartheid education system, and to rid South Africa of its legacy. It marked a dramatic shift from content-based teaching and learning to a learnercentred, outcomes-based approach. The key principles on which Curriculum 2005 was based are: integration, holistic development, relevance, participation and ownership, accountability and transparency, learner-orientation, flexibility, critical thinking, progression, an anti-biased approach, inclusion of learners with special educational needs, quality standards, and international comparability (National Department of Education, 1997). OBE, introduced as part of Curriculum 2005, therefore represented the first substantive, sharp break with apartheid education (Vithal & Volmink, 2005). Through an outcomes-based approach, the government wants learners to move away from rote learning, where children simply memorise what they have been taught, to a system that teaches them to think critically.

This article looks at the extent of progressivism that came with the introduction of OBE through to the introduction of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) in 2011. The paper further focuses on some contradictions of progressivism in mathematics education. For example, contradiction exists between the question of integration and its pedagogical purpose in mathematics education. Jansen (1999) points to another problem, for instance, that 'specifying outcomes' in advance might be anti-democratic. And there is a fundamental contradiction in insisting that students use knowledge creatively only to inform them that the desired learning outcomes are already specified.' (p. 150).

An attempt is made in this article to address the following questions:

* What is progressivism in education, and in mathematics education in particular?

* What progressive ideas came with curricular reform in South Africa from the time of the introduction of OBE to the introduction of CAPS curriculum?

* What were the consequences of progressivism on the content knowledge and mastery of conceptual mathematical knowledge by the learners of mathematics?

What is Progressive Education?

Progressive education does not lend itself to a single fixed definition. One problem arises as a result that, ' some people focus on the unique needs of individual students, while others invoke the importance of a community of learners; some describe learning as a process, more journey than destination, while others believe that tasks should result in authentic products that can be shared' (Kohn, 2008).

Progressive education is in essence 'learning through living' (Klein, 2003). It is a pedagogical movement that began in the late 19th century. In the US, the term 'progressive education' was used to distinguish this education from the traditional curriculum of the 19th century. John Dewey (1859-1952) was the most eloquent and the most influential figure in educational progressivism, and became the 'father of progressive education' (Loss, 2014). …

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